Subject: NCC Special Ash Wednesday Edition

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Special Edition: Ash Wednesday and Lent Resources 

For this Ash Wednesday, this beginning of Lent for the Western Churches, we are sending out this sample of resources from a few of our member communions.  We hope this enriches your experience of this holy season.

PC(USA) offers wide variety of resources for Lent
Forty days of devotions, worship guides and Bible study

Lent, a season of spiritual discipline and preparation that starts annually with Ash Wednesday—which falls this year on Feb. 10—anticipates the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter.

“The season of Lent has served a variety of purposes in the history of the church and the life of Christian communities, specifically a period of preparation for baptism at the annual Easter Vigil; a time for the reconciliation of penitent persons; and an opportunity for spiritual discipline through prayer, fasting, service, and generosity,” says the Rev. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office of Theology and Worship. “The common thread—whether one is new to the church, estranged from the community, or wanting to grow in faith and faithfulness—is deeper and more authentic relationship with God and one another through Christ. Lent points to the cross, where Jesus is lifted up with arms outstretched in compassion and welcome. And Lent points beyond the cross to the empty tomb, where Jesus offers new and abundant life to all.”
Lenten Series: Engaging the Beloved Community

This year, the Episcopal Public Policy Network's Lenten Series focuses on "Engaging the Beloved Community." Today's Ash Wednesday reflection written by Lacy Broemel, Manager for Communications and Operations for The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations, is the first installment of the series. Each week of Lent the EPPN will feature video, written reflections, or voice recordings from Episcopalians engaged in the work of racial justice and reconciliation.

In a recent video discussing racism and reconciliation, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, "We who follow Jesus are in the business of seeking to transform things from the way they are into something closer to the way God dreams them to be." During this Lenten season, we invite you to walk in the ways of justice, peace, and reconciliation and explore what it means for The Episcopal Church to transform our world into the Beloved Community.

Each week, we will send an email to your inbox that frames the reflection and includes a link to the full reflection on our website. Find the Ash Wednesday reflection below:

Lent Out Loud: Ash Wednesday

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are the traditional disciplines of Lent. In the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday, Jesus addresses these three acts of piety already well known in rabbinic teaching. Two thousand years later they continue to top the list of Lenten disciplines: refraining from certain food or drink, being more prayerful or making an extra donation to charity.

Jesus is never content to let tradition be. Just when you think you’ve got prayer, fasting and donating down, he puts his own spin on things. Fasting? Don’t complain, but put on a happy face. More prayer? Yes, please, but shut the door so no one sees you at it. Almsgiving? By all means, just don’t let anybody know. When you put your faith into action, Jesus asks you to keep it a secret. Shhhhh. Don’t let anyone know!

His “tell no one” instructions run into immediate obstacles. If this was a tall order in his day, it’s even more challenging in an age when we post, tweet and selfie our every moment. Increasingly, it seems that anything worth doing (and many things that are not) is made public on social media immediately. It follows then that if no one sees it, then why DO it?

BEING DUST: Ash Wednesday

At 12,000 feet, my worry began to dissolve into the grandeur of the mountains as Rocky Mountain National Park stretched out before me. The previous several months had been so arduous that I practically crashed into a week of vacation. It took days to unwind and begin to relax, to release some of the dis-ease so present in my heart over all that I could not fix. As I gazed at the mountains, I felt something shift deep within me. It felt restorative. A phrase emerged that began to soften all the sharp edges of my anxiety and despair, “Awe is the most reliable cure for overwhelm.”

I repeated this phrase with every step as I drank in beauty, vast and incomprehensible. It was my utter smallness that began to form release from the tight grasp to control. Something about the immensity of the landscape, and the humility born of my vulnerability within it, put into perspective all that had been restricting full presence.

Holiness lives where awe and humility meet.

This is the message of Ash Wednesday. We remind each other on this sacred day, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) It may sound like doom and gloom or reason for public shame, but the point is far from self-deprecation.

Lent Devotions

Lent is a time of meditation and repentance, a time to examine our inner and outer spiritual life. The spirit of Lent is penitential and devotional. It is all about preparation—during the season of Lent we reflect on the road that Jesus walked leading up to his crucifixion.

Three actions traditionally associated with Lent are prayer, fasting, and charitable giving. Jesus knew that his path led to the cross, yet he remained in conversation with his Father and continued to help those in need. He continued to live a life that was pleasing to God the Father.

What does that mean for us? We should follow Jesus’ example and focus on prayer, Scripture, helping those in need, and social justice. During Lent, we should be preparing to die to ourselves as Christ died for us.
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